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Actually, one of the *better* MSTed movies.
A company called Ruscico has been releasing DVD versions of Russian fairy-tale movies. "Father Frost", aka "Jack Frost", "Magical Wonderland", or "Morozko" in the original Russian, was one of them. And I bought it.
Why? Because not only did I love the MSTed version, it was actually one of the *better* MSTed movies. Yes, it is goofy, but it has its own kind of charm. Which is true of all the Russo-Finnish fairy-tale movies that were MSTed...and the folks at Best Brains were the first to admit that.
There's much to laugh at. For example, the fact that, as one of the riffs goes, there seems to be no Finnish word for "subtle". And Nastenka's total doormat-ness and helium voice (Crow: "I think her adorability is crashing in on itself."), and Ivan's hair, and the fact that Baba Yaga seems to be as stupid as rocks. But then again, this is a fairy tale...and good and evil must be clearly defined.
But even without the MSTing, this movie has much to recommend it. The setting is gorgeous...a Russian pastoral setting first in spring, then in a glistening white winter. The costumes are lovely, and the musical score is exquisite. All of which really do give you the feeling of "long ago and far away." So I'd agree with the poster on the MST3K newsgroup who describes this movie as being "lots of charm, sprinkled liberally with moments of '...the hell?'" Maybe it's just that when I saw this movie on MST3K, it had the oddest ring of familiarity to me. I have a soft spot for cheesy old kids' movies, the kind they showed on UHF channels on rainy Sunday afternoons in those pre-cable days. Perhaps this was one of them.
So...enjoy the MSTed version, but don't overlook the charm of the actual movie!
In Search of Dr. Seuss (1994)
"How did it get so late so soon?"
I'd never caught this on TNT when it was on. On impulse, when I was at Seuss Landing at Universal Islands of Adventure, I picked up a copy of the DVD. (Since, y'know, I hadn't spent NEARLY enough money after four days on Disney parks and two on Universal parks ;-).)
I was charmed beyond belief! First of all, there's Matt Frewer, who I've liked since the eighties and "Max Headroom." He just projects that aura of likability...and, with much more understatement and ten pounds less facial makeup, projected a more endearing Cat in the Hat than Mike Myers ever did or could. (Sorry, Mike...you fell flat in that one.)
It's quite impressive how much this covers, for a "light-hearted" kid-friendly documentary. It covers Theodore Geisel's war work, with clips from a newsreel he made. (A Private Snafu cartoon is a DVD extra.) It does gloss over a few things...it mentions that Geisel's first wife died, but leaves out the fact that she committed suicide. Which is understandable enough...younger kids won't understand it, and older kids can always see the A & E Biography or some such for further detail.
There's a strong emphasis on Geisel's desires to effect social change, focusing on the endings of "The Lorax" and "The Butter Battle Book." Good ways to lead kids into the books, and open discussions.
The supporting actors are all excellent, from Kathy Najimy as the reporter who goes "in search of Dr. Seuss," to Patrick Stewart with a humorous Irish accent as "Mulberry Street"'s Sgt. Mulvaney (but he could read the telephone book and I'd hang on every word), to Robin Williams as a dad who reads "The Cat In The Hat" to his kids. (Not to belabor the point, but Robin's simple reading of the story conveys it ten times better than the full-length movie with all its trimmings!) Most importantly of all...everyone involved seems to be having such a good time...a major plus!
Interspersed throughout are clips from many animated specials based on Seuss books. Most interesting of all are bits from a stop-motion animated cartoon based on "And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street!" Unfortunately, all we get are clips. I wish they'd have included the whole cartoon as a DVD extra as they did with the Snafu short.
The songs are quite catchy, especially the title song and the Kathy/Cat duet "Oh, The Places You'll Go!"
But the most heart-melting moment comes at the end. This being a documentary, we must come to the moment of Dr. Seuss's death. The Cat shows Kathy a poem that Dr. Seuss wrote in his later years, "How Did It Get So Late So Soon?" She reads it...
"How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December's here before it's June, My goodness, how the time has...floon! How did it get so late so soon...?"
And the sadness that flickers across Matt Frewer's face as he recites the last line along with Kathy is so genuine, you wonder if it's coming from Matt-as-Cat or from Matt-as-Matt. After all, Matt must have grown up with the Seuss books and read them to his own kid. It's how everyone who'd grown up with Dr. Seuss felt when we learned of the great man's passing.
This funny, sweet documentary is a superb way to introduce kids to the remarkable life of Theodore Seuss Geisel...and adults will enjoy it just as much!
"From far to near, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!"